In August 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) released India’s first Patients’ Rights Charter (PRC) with the recommendations from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Health being a state subject, the MoHFW urged state governments to adopt the PRC through a letter in June 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the issue of patients’ rights at the forefront. Some of patient rights stipulated by the charter are as follows:
To adequate relevant information about the nature, cause of illnesses, proposed investigations and care, expected results of treatment, possible complications and expected costs:
- The hospitals should not force patients to purchase medicines from the hospital pharmacies, and if they are able to get medicines from outside at lower price/cost, that should be acceptable. Similarly, if the patient wants to get tests done from outside, that may be accepted and facilitated by the hospital or clinical establishments.
- To information on the rates charged for each type of service provided and facilities available, hospitals shall display the same at a conspicuous place in the local as well as in English languages.
- Release of dead body cannot be denied for any reason whatsoever by hospitals. g To access a copy of the case papers, patient records, investigation reports and detailed bill in itemised format.
- To inform consent prior to specific tests/treatment (eg surgery, chemotherapy, etc).
- To seek a second opinion from an appropriate clinician of patients' choice, with records and information being provided by the treating hospital.
- To have ensured the presence of a female person, during physical examination of a female patient by a male practitioner.
- To choose alternative treatment if options are available. g Right to care according to prescribed rates wherever relevant.
- In case of referral by hospitals, the referring hospital will provide a proper referral transport facility for transfer of patients to the nearest possible hospital where appropriate care and treatment are available.
- Transfer of patient will not be refused even if not referred by the treating hospital and even if the patient is leaving against medical advice (LAMA).
- Every hospital shall establish a timebound grievance redressal mechanism to address the grievances of patients. A grievance redressal officer will be identified by the hospital and his/her name and contact details will be displayed at a conspicuous place in local languages and in English. The records of grievances received and remedial action taken will be maintained. The name and contact details of the district registering authority will also be displayed who may be contacted in case of nonRedressal of the grievance of patients to their satisfaction.
Responsibilities of patients: To provide all health-related information, cooperate with doctors during examination, treatment, follow all instructions, pay agreed fees on time, respect dignity of doctors and hospital staff, and never resort to violence.
(The writer is a Vile Parle-based social activist)